The Federal Government on Thursday held a meeting with delegations from Republic of Benin and Niger in Abuja, where modalities for the re-opening of the Nigerian land borders were discussed. Punch Newspaper recalls that the land borders were closed in August following criminal activities at the nation’s international boundaries with Benin and Niger.
The parley which held under the auspices of the Tripartite Anti-smuggling Ministerial Committee at the ECOWAS Commission Secretariat, Asokoro, agreed to establish a joint border patrol team comprising the police, Customs and immigration of the three countries.
Government officials who represented Nigeria at the meeting were the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, Mrs Zainab Ahmed (Finance, Budget and National Planning), Rauf Aregbesola (Interior), Lai Mohammed (Information), Zubairu Dauda (State, MFA) and Hajia Mariam Katagum (Minister of State, Trade and Industry).
On the Beninoise delegation were the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Mr Aurelien Agbenonci, Mr Romuald Wadagni (Economy and Finance) and Mrs Shadiya Assouma (Industry and Commerce), while the Nigerien team had the Ministers of Interior, Mr Mohamed Bazoum, Mr Sadou Seydou (Trade and Private Sector) Lamido Goga (African Integration and Nigerien abroad) and Mr Ahmat Jidoud (Budget).
The meeting was also attended by the ECOWAS Commissioner for Trade, Customs and Free Movement, Mr Tel Konzi.
Reading the communiqué at the end of the meeting, Onyeama, who headed the Nigerian delegation, stated that the meeting also agreed on the establishment of a monitoring and evaluation committee of the three countries.
The mandate of the committee, he said, was to ensure actions that would facilitate and enhance the suppression of smuggled goods and other related matters.
“We have agreed to put in place certain mechanisms that would enable us to open the borders; there was a consensus on that.
“We have agreed to set up a joint border patrol; so the three countries would send a list of officers that would be part of the joint border patrol team and they are going to be meeting on the 25th and 26th of this month.”
Responding to questions on the threat to Nigerian traders in Accra who had been asked to shut down their businesses by their Ghanaian counterparts, the minister said the Nigerian High Commissioner to Ghana was engaging with the government of Ghana on the development.
“We are in touch, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, with the leadership of the Nigerian traders in Accra, Ghana and there is no threat as we understand it, to their physical safety.
“The important thing is we have found a solution to the problem and in the not too distant future, the borders would be opened and I think that would impact on the traders in Ghana as well,” the minister said.
The foreign affairs minister admitted that the border closure had impacted severely on the nation, but added that the benefits were high.